Indian schools of Ancient Indian Philosophy for UPPSC Mains

By Nitin Singhal|Updated : January 21st, 2021

Hello students, 

This article is about different schools of Indian philosophy, their important elements and tenets governing each of the schools. It is very important for UPPSC Mains exam. The aspirants can use this article for revision and Mains answer writing.

Indian schools of Ancient Indian Philosophy

The Indian subcontinent has been subjected to several invasions, but it has survived each of them. This can be credited to our roots that are grounded in philosophy.  The Sanskrit word for philosophy is Darsana which means direct vision.

It is divided into two categories:

  1. Orthodox 
  • Nyaya
  • Vaisheshik
  • Sakhya
  • Yoga
  • Mimamsa
  • Vedanta
  1. Heterodox
  • Carvaka
  • Jainism
  • Buddhism
  • Ajivika 

During the Vedic period, philosophy was defined in the light of the nature of soul/Atman and Brahman who was the representative of the ultimate reality.

Later these concepts gave rise to 6 different schools of philosophy and fall in the category of the orthodox system.


  • Founded by Kapila who wrote Samkhya sutra
  • Reality is made of two principles, Prakriti (female) and purusha (male). Both of them are completely independent and absolute.
  • Everything in this world originates from the interplay of these two.
  • Later this school merged with Yoga school of Philosophy


  • founded by the ancient sage Gautama, and deals with logic, the process of reasoning
  • Valid knowledge is defined as the real knowledge i.e. one knows about the object as it exists and is the only way to get rid of all their sufferings
  • Nyaya is probably the closest Indian equivalent to contemporary analytic philosophy.


  • This system was described in Yogasutra written by Patanjali around 2nd century BC.
  • Founded by Patanjali and has been mentioned in Yogasutra around 2nd century BC.
  • Yoga facilitates the systematic release of Purusha from Prakriti by controlling changes in the mental mechanism.
  • It works towards systematic release of Purusha from Prakriti by purifying and controlling changes in mental mechanism.
  • The techniques of yoga are involved in controlling mind and body and hence is seen as a technique to attain Moksha
  • God’s existence is considered as that of a guide and teacher.


  • Founded by Kanada
  • All objects in the universe are composed of five elements–earth, water, air, fire & ether
  • Believes in the principles of Karma
  • Creation and destruction are an ongoing cyclic process under the guidance of god
  • Ushered the beginning of physics in India and the formation of the universe via the Atomic Theory
  • A significant work on Vaisheshika is “Prashastapada“

Purva Mimamsa

  • propagated by sage Jaimini, who was a disciple of Veda Vyasa
  • believes in Dharma being the essence of the Vedas
  • Dharma means the commandments found in the Vedas which are mainly in the form of yajnas.
  • If one does not follow one’s dharma or prescribed duties, then one incurs sin and therefore suffers in hell 

Uttara Mimamsa or Vedanta

  • Vedanta implies the philosophy of the Upanishad, the concluding portion of the Vedas
  • Its founder was Brahamasutra of Badrayana and commentaries on it were written later by Shankaracharya & Ramanujam
  • The essence of Vedanta is the fact that every action must be governed by the intellect
  • Vedanta enables the practitioner to access the realm of spirit through the intellect
  • Believes in the principle of karma


Charvaka, (also called Lokayata)

  • Indian school of materialists
  • Rejects the source of karma and moksha and doesn’t accept the authority of the Vedas
  • It recognises only one means of knowledge and that is anubhava or perception
  • Ajita Kesakambali is thought to be the first Caravaka while Brihaspati is called its founder. Most of its literature is now lost

Ajivika Philosophy

  • Loosely organised group of wandering ascetics
  • The basic theme of ajivikism is the doctrine of niyati or destiny
  • Makkhali Gosala and Sanjaya Belatthaputta were major figures among them.

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